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In act 1, scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet, what does Romeo mean when he says to one of the...

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beyondjp | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 7, 2013 at 4:37 PM via iOS

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In act 1, scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet, what does Romeo mean when he says to one of the servingman, "What lady's that which doth enrich the hand of yonder knight?"

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 8, 2013 at 12:46 AM (Answer #1)

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Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is full of lush poetic imagery. When Romeo asks a Servingman

What lady's that, which doth enrich the hand
Of yonder knight?

he is simply asking the identiy of the beautiful girl who is evidently holding a man by the hand while they are dancing. It is an elegant way of saying that Juliet is so lovely that she actually imparts some of her surplus beauty to the man who has the good fortune to be her partner. Romeo seems to be suggesting that in giving the other man her hand she is figuratively depositing a fortune in gold in his.

The Servingman is apparently only a temporary employee for this big affair and replies, "I know not, sir." Romeo then describes her in terms that show why he believes she enriches the hand of the knight and would enrich any man's hand, including his own.

O she doth teach the torches to burn bright.
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear --
Beauty too rich for use, for earth to dear.

And so on.

When the impulsive young Romeo manages to capture Juliet as his own partner, he alludes to her hand again, calling it a "holy shrine":

If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

By the time this dance and this conversation are over, the two have fallen hopelessly in love.

 

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